Veterans Day was different this year, with many celebrations canceled due to the pandemic.
But members of Flint Hills Church still made it out to Heritage Park Thursday afternoon to remind those who served that they will not be forgotten.
About nine people stood on the corners of Sixth Street at Heritage Park, waving posters and thanking veterans for their service, while people drove by honking and waving in support of their message.
The celebration was organized by Flint Hills Church Special Needs Pastor Joanna French, who unfortunately could not be present for the event.
Robyn Van Cleave, a church member, took over management of the celebration.
“I’m a pretty active member of the embrace special needs ministry and mental health ministry that we have at our church,” Van Cleave said. “And it’s just really important that we find ways to reach our community where they are and to honor our veterans and let them know that they’re loved and God sees them.”
Because so many Veterans Day events just didn’t happen this year because of the pandemic, it was especially important for the group to show up and bring their message to the public.
“I believe that having us out here is a way to show that even in the midst of the pandemic and even in the midst of all of what is happening all around us, that we can still come out and we can still find a way to do it in a way that not only honors God but honors our leaders and the mandates that we’re all kind of currently under,” she said. “Because we want to make sure that we always do that.”
Veteran suicide is an issue of great importance and one the group hoped they could address in their own small way.
According to a 2016 report by the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, an average of about 20 veterans commit suicide every day.
“Veteran suicides and active duty suicides are — it’s a scary number,” Van Cleave said. “I think if you live in a community where you have a lot of veterans — and you live in a military community — you’re touched a whole lot more. And so it is our responsibility to reach out and let them know that they’re not alone — ever.”
Other attendees’ motivations were much the same.
April Kirk and her son Colton came together to the event.
“We came out here just to encourage the veterans and those who served and just to let them know that God loves them,” she said.
It was just a way to show their support.
“We just want to let people know that we are here,” she said. “We have veterans at our church too but I know there’s a lot in this area, of course, because of (Fort Riley.)”
Emily Bryan attended to “spread some love,” she said.
“It’s something we should all be proud of and we need to take care of these people and show them some love when they get home and some respect,” she said.